I’m not going to bother you with how you working longer benefits the nation and brings you more money. I’m not going to remind you that staying employed usually means better health care coverage. Here are five other reasons why staying in the workforce may be better.
Not retiring is better for your physical health. People who continue to work stay healthier than people who retire to a life of leisure. Working gives you a sense of purpose. And purpose is good for you.
In a study of 900 aging religious, those with a strong sense of purpose lived life to the end with no sign of Alzheimer’s disease even though posthumous brain studies found the lesions characteristic of it. A study of 12,460 middle-aged Hungarians found those who believed their lives had meaning had lower rates of both cancer and heart disease. A retirement of drifting from thing to thing at leisure isn’t an automatic ticket to good health.
Not retiring maintains your emotional health. Work is one of the best sources of self-esteem available. If you are good enough at something to get paid to do it, that’s strong evidence of your worth. Most of us don’t realize that’s important until after we let go of it. Then we struggle to figure out why we are feeling “empty.” We need to work. If not for pay, then in some other context.
Not retiring gives you less incentive to hang onto a job you hate. If you are going to work for a long time and don’t plan to rely on your current company’s benefits for retirement, it makes perfect sense to find a better job, no matter how old you are. But it’s tempting to tolerate a bad job fit or a boss that is literally making you sick in the name of “making it to retirement.”
If your job sucks and you’re going to have to work for as long as you live, for heaven’s sake go out and find one you like. It might take some time to pull it off, but you still won’t be in your current unhappy place as long as if you hung on until you could retire.
Not retiring gives you more room to find your dream job. Let’s face it. When it comes to work, it takes most of us some time to figure out what we like. I know at lot more now than I did when I was forty. As you learn what lights your fire, you can move toward that kind of work if you aren’t telling yourself that you’ll be “done” soon and that it’s too late to even thing about that.
There are people in their eighties who attribute their good health to the fact that they have to work. A local lawyer is 99 and still goes to the office–but on a reduced workday. That’s a piece of the dream job, too. Maybe yours can be done from home or in alternate weeks, or using a WiFi connection from Maui. If you know you’re going to have to work forever, finding something you love is essential. Also more exciting.
Not retiring reduces your vulnerability Not working can leave you vulnerable a lot of ways. You’re vulnerable to becoming isolated. You’re vulnerable to having your income streams dry up. You’re vulnerable to having way too much time on your hands if you lose a spouse or companion prematurely.
It’s easier to get a few more hours–or take on a second job for a while–if you’re already employed. People need people, and the work setting is full of them.
The biggest lie of the traditional approach is that retirees are privileged to not be able to work. That’s not how it started and not why it continues. It’s a quiet, effective application of ageism. “Here’s some money. Now get out of the way.” Nobody cares what you do or if you do it after you retire. You’ve rendered yourself irrelevant. Arghh!
Instead, find a way to work that’s fun. Work at something you believe in. And find a workstyle and employer that make you feel you have a life not just a job. Retirement isn’t the only alternative. If you find what you love can can thrive while employed.